Friday, November 20, 2009

Mae West: Jimmy & Shimmy Mae

When MAE WEST was featured at the Central Theatre [Broadway & West 47th Street] on 25 December 1920, she had no idea that Santa Nick had a sweet little career surprise waiting.
• • Irish-American comedian Jimmy Hussey [1891
1930] was the star attraction that Christmas Day. Also performing were Phil Baker and Aileen Stanley — — but Mae West must have pulled focus and attracted Hussey's attention.
• • Born in Chicago in 1891, James J. Hussey made his stage debut (accidentally) when he attended a performance in The Windy City and started singing choruses from the balcony. Instead of getting thrown out, he won a contract and started appearing on the Shubert vaudeville circuit.
• • Clearly, Mae left the right impression on Christmas Day 1920. Several months later, Hussey wrote the book and the lyrics for the revue that would be renamed "
The Mimic World 1921." He made sure his new material was custom-tailored to Mae's unique talents. She was cast in many prominent skits in this production — — including the con artist "Shifty Liz."
• • Clearly with Mae's approval and cooperation, Hussey penned the skit "The Trial of Shimmy Mae." Hussey himself played the judge as Mae demonstrated the shimmy in his topsy-turvy courtroom.
• • For the skit "The Bridal Suite," Jimmy Hussey took the role of a busy newly-wed who has to leave his honeymoon for a business meeting. In his absence, the pretty bride entertains her lovers, making her own appointments. "The Bridal Suite" was scrapped from the revue when it had a Boston try-out. The censors also cut the lights when Shimmy Mae started to dance.
• • "
The Mimic World 1921" opened on 17 August 1921 and Hussey's close friend, Jack Dempsey (another Irish-American) attended the premiere, and visited Mae backstage after the show.
• • Death at age 39 on 20 November 1930 • •
• • Jimmy Hussey, who was a brilliant success onstage as a Jewish comedian, died at age 39 of pneumonia on 20 November 1930. Mae West attended his memorial service, which was held at St. Malachy's on West 49th Street, a ceremony that also commemorated the recent deaths of two other Roman Catholic colleagues of hers, Tommy Gray and Tony Pastor.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1921 • •
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